CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. - A Prince George’s county school bus aid accused of sexually assaulting two children with special needs was denied bond on Wednesday.
Michael Patopie, 38, was arrested and taken to jail on Tuesday. He is charged with second-degree child abuse, sex offenses and assault involving two children who attend James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Clinton, Md. Charging documents say the students involved in this case are 4 and 5 years old.
Police were first made aware of the allegations on June 20 when they were contacted by the bus driver, who reported witnessing Patopie touching the students inappropriately.
In August, the mother of one victim and the aunt of the other went to police with details about the alleged abuse. In a court hearing on Tuesday the judge said Patopie would not be released because he presents a danger to the community. He faced a judge through close circuit video - his hair was long and down.
Patopie didn't say much, but his attorney said the arrest was based on speculation and that the sexual abuse wasn't caught on the bus camera. Instead all that could be seen on the video from that bus camera is Patopie's hand moving up and down. Patopie’s mother was in court hoping to convince the judge to allow bond - she doesn't believe the accusation against her son.
Patopie's attorney said that his client suffered from cerebral palsy - his mother said he had special needs when he was in school, but he had worked as a bus attendant for 15 years and had no problems.
No information was given about how many students were on the bus at the time of the incidents, and no other details in the case were given. The state's attorney's office said the case is still under investigation, and they will proceed looking into the possibility of any additional victims if evidence of that surfaces.
Prince George's County Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell released the following statement about his arrest:
“Prince George’s County Public Schools is aware of the arrest Tuesday of a transportation attendant. We are moving to immediately seek his termination. I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students. We will cooperate fully with our law enforcement partners to ensure that he is held accountable. Our focus remains on providing all children with a quality education in a safe learning environment.”
Scott Peterson, the press secretary for Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, said in a statement:
"Today’s announcement by the State’s Attorney’s Office that the school bus attendant in the Ryder Randall Elementary School case has been charged with child abuse is a strong statement that those who prey on our children will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
2016: A CHALLENGING YEAR FOR PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY SCHOOLS
It has been a challenging year for Prince George's County Schools after several situations surfaced concerning student safety. On September 21, Chief Of Staff George Margolies was relieved of his duties after an email he wrote regarding ongoing issues in the school system was leaked. The next day, school board member Edward Burroughs, III appeared on FOX 5 to call for the resignation of CEO Kevin Maxwell after questioning an alleged cover-up regarding the county's Head Start Program.
Prince George’s County Public Schools recently lost a $6.5 million federal grant that funded the county's Head Start program because of repeated allegations of Head Start teachers using harsh and unusual punishment on their students. In a federal report, teachers at James Ryder Randall Elementary School were cited for forcing children to hold heavy objects over their heads after they misbehaved during naptime.
Also earlier this year, 22-year-old Deonte Carraway, a former school aide at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School in Prince George’s County, was indicted on 270 child sex abuse and porn charges involving children.
Anyone with information in this case is urged to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Children and Vulnerable Adult Unit at 301-772-4930. Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to www.pgpolice.org and submit a tip online.